Subtext Reports
Those crazy posts about the episodes originally posted to the nutforum and saved here for posterity in their error riddled entirety (since they were written 'on the fly'). 
Homecoming Series
A series of five (not so short) stories about Xena and Gabrielle building their life together as a couple. 
Magic Series
Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas find love as they uncover more writings of Gabrielle about her warrior princess. 
Conversations by Campfire Series
Set during Season Four, parts of the episodes are worked into chats between Xena and Gab, particularly the subject of Najara and the bard. 
Changes of Heart Series
My take on what happened after Gabby got Chakram'ed upside the head by Xena in the Season Five ender. 
Bonding of Souls Series
This series picks up where 'Changes of Heart' ends with Xena and Gabby back together. Each 'episode' is an expansion of the episodes of Season Six.
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
How DID Ares get stuck in that tomb from the Xena Scrolls? This story answers that question. 
The Play
Xena and Gabrielle have to play the leads in a performance for a ruthless king to save Salmoneus' neck. Unexpected consequences and confessions are the result. 
The Queen, the Regent, the Warrior
Xena leaves Gabrielle in the care of the amazons, only to have Ephiny and Gabby fall in love. Xena does return and chaos and secret confessions follow.
The Contest
Ares and Aphrodite battle over Xena's spirit. 
Loss of Virginity
Romantic musings from one of our gals. 
Moment of Truth
Gabrielle does anything it takes to keep Xena out of a battle that's foretold to take the warrior princess' life. 
Thank the Gods For Henbane
At an Amazon festival Gabrielle has one too many henbane brownies, which results in a funny and sexy night for Xena. 
As It Should Be
The Queen gets taken by the Warrior Princess at the Amazon Village.
Family Ties
Xena takes Gabrielle back to home to spend a little time with the 'in-laws'. 
Dueling Cousins
Xena's look-alike cousin, Sappho, has always been competitive but now the Tenth Muse wants the ultimate prize - Gabrielle. 
The End
Alternate 'demise' of Xena and Gabrielle based on the Season Four crucifixion. 
Truth or Dare
Sexy romp between Callisto and Gabrielle set during 'A Necessary Evil' 
November 29th, 1942
A little romance fic between Janice and Mel. 
Inside Outside
Set after the events of 'A Family Affair', it's a scene told through the eyes of four people - Gabrielle's Father, Mother, Gabrielle herself and Xena.
Something To Talk About
Xena and Gabrielle's friends are all surprised that the pair aren't lovers so they consider why not.
Henbane, Horsenappings and Other Obstacles
A 'murphy's law' comedy where everything that can go wrong for Xena and Gabby but, of course, they still end up saving the day.
All That Matters
During Gabrielle's birthday party in' Takes One To Know One', Xena reflects on her love for the bard.  
Warlord
What if Gabrielle was actually the one behind all the folks who influenced Xena's journey toward good? 
Have Yourself a Merry Little Solstice
A little Winter Solstice tale that's available in general (not lovers) and alternative (lovers). .
Little Moments: A Day in the Desert
A tale told through the eyes of Janice and then Mel while on a dig.  
Candy or Chaos
'Classic Xena' general Halloween story with Xena and Gabby return for the Potiedaia Harvest Festival.
Conquering Heroine
Gabrielle is the Conqueror in this piece. How exactly? Give it a read and find out. 
Watching and Waiting
Set after FIN II, Xena watches from afar as Gabrielle moves on with her life. 
1971
Police Office Carol and Protestor Erin clash but find they're fighting for the same things. A short story based on my novel, 'One Belief Away'. 
March 26, 1943
Sequel to November 29, 1942. This time it's Janice's birthday and Mel has some sexy plans for her lover. 
The 10th Muse
In this traditional subtext story that's part French farce; part musical, Gabrielle has a Doppelganger, the Poetess Sappho. It's up to Gabby, Xena and Sappho's friend Aphrodite to guard Sappho during the 10th Muse Competition...Of course they must also try to repair Sappho's damaged relationship with her lover (a woman, and bandmate, who's the spitting image of Xena).

Title: The Contest
Author: CN Winters
Fandom: Xena Fanfiction, Xena fanfic, Xena fan fiction, Xena and Gabrielle fanfiction
Rating: PG
Disclaimers: The Xena/Herc gang is property of MCA/Universal and I don’t mean to offend by offering my take on things in the ‘Xenaverse’. There is little violence and a few displays of affection between two women (like you don’t know who!). There is a whole lot of love and mushy stuff. Are you too young, too repressed or live somewhere that this story could get you into trouble?. If you’ve answered ‘no’ to these questions, you have my permission to proceed. If you answered ‘yes’ come back at a later date.
Author Note: Someone asked if I'd do a story that features the Gods of Xena and Hercules so I came up with this. 

Synopsis: This is a tale of Ares and Aphrodite using Gabrielle and Xena as their pawns in a game of sibling rivalry. 
Feedback: Remember to feel free to e-mail me at cnwinters71@yahoo.com with any constructive comments you have. Homophobes need not apply thank you.

The Contest

Prolog

"Let’s settle this once and for all!"

The Goddess of Love paced furiously in front of the council at Mt. Olympus. Ares yawned, not the least bit concerned by the outburst. This gesture only fueled the goddess’ ranting. She stopped in front of the God of War; her hands placed firmly on her hips in confrontation.

"Come on Ares," the love goddess egged. "I mean it! Let’s get this settled for good so I can move on to more important issues."

"Like what?" Ares shrugged. "Your hair appointment."

Dite’s eyes narrowed into slits. Great Zeus how she despised her brother at times. "Nooo," the goddess replied. "And not like I’d tell you anyway... You’d send in Strife or Discord to wreak everything I worked hard to create."

"Ha," Ares spat. "You’ve caused more death, heartache and despair than I ever could...Love is the most dangerous weapon of all... Don’t act so ‘holy’ my dear sister."

"You’re getting off the subject, Ares!" Dite replied getting worked up again. "Are we going to do this or not?!"

Ares didn’t answer. He went to work polishing his sword.

"What’s the matter Ares? Scared?"

"I am not scared!" Ares answered, darting to his feet.

"Enough!" Zeus yelled. He had all he could stand of the two of them. ‘Kids’ the King of the Gods thought as he shook his head. ‘Will they ever grow up?’ Ares and Dite, in addition to the rest of the council, waited for him to continue. "Are you accepting this challenge or not, Ares?"

Ares met his fathers eyes before glaring at Dite. "You’re on," he whispered.

Dite smiled. "And you’re gone," she snickered.

In a flash of brilliant light, they both vanished. Each had much work to do. It would soon be the longest two mortal days of their immortal lives.

Chapter 1

Aphrodite walked into the cave in the mountains of the far northern land of Thrace.

"Ding dong!" she called out as she crept inside. "Anybody home?"

She watched as a shadow moved toward her and she smiled when the figure came into view. He was a winged old man with shaggy hair and beard, wearing a billowing cloak. He didn't seem very pleased by her presence.

"Aphrodite," he said sarcastically. "And to what do I owe this pleasure?"

"Nice to see you're still your old cranky self, Boreas."

"Tell me now," he said shortly. "What do you want?"

"Not much, just a little wind from the North down to the Valley. Cold, but not mortal life threatening."

"And what's in it for me?" he grumbled.

"The satisfaction of helping two people achieve never-ending love?" she proposed in a perky voice.

He paused a beat. "Again, what's in it for me?"

Aphrodite sighed. "Does there always have to be something in it? Can't you just 'do good' for the sake of doing good?"

Once more, he paused a beat and said, "No."

"All right, here's the sitch," she told him. "You help me and, by extension, you'll get Ares goat."

"Why didn't you just say that?" he asked. 

"I thought I'd appear to your good nature first."

"I'm Boreas, God of the North Winds. I have no good nature, but I do have a distain for Ares that surpasses my distain of you."

"Hey, however it's gotta be, I ain't complaining. Just make it happen, alright?" she said briskly. 

He gave her a nod and stood at the edge of the cave entrance. He moved his hands in a sweeping motion and the air around them chilled and then gushed through the nearby trees.

"Now that's what I'm talkin' about," Aphrodite said happily.

 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

"Xena?" Gabrielle called up to the warrior who was mounted on Argo while she walked. 

The warrior could hear the young woman’s teeth chatter. "Hmm?"

"Could we stay at an inn tonight? You said the town isn’t too far away right?"

Xena grinned. It was chilly, but not too cold. At least, not for her since she'd been through worse. The bard, however...

"Xena? Please?"

"Are you sure? Cold is good for the complexion," she teased.

"Yes, but it’s deadly to the extremities," the bard replied. "My face might get a healthy glow, but my fingers and toes will fall off."

"We wouldn’t want that to happen now would we?" The warrior’s voice was syrupy.

"No, we wouldn’t," the bard agreed in a like tone.

"Okay," the warrior replied, pulling Argo to a halt. "But you’ll have to ride." The warrior offered her hand, but the bard looked undecided. Xena continued and said, "If we keep up this pace the inn might be full when we arrive."

Without another moments hesitation, the bard was on the mare. Seconds later, she was hanging onto Xena’s waist for dear life as they took off in a full gallop.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

There was nothing special about the inn – similar to the countless number they had visited before. It was expensive though – 10 dinars – consumer demand was high on an evening like this and the owner took full advantage of it. Many keepers did. Except for my mother, Xena reflected. Cyrene never charged more, whether it be the hottest or the coldest day of the year. Xena had asked her mother why she never ‘rated’ her rooms.

"It’s the same room whether it’s bright and sunny or cold and snowing. Where’s the justice in charging more," she had replied.

Xena smiled at the thought. Although the warrior had ‘lost her way’ in the past, she could see where her sense of fairness and honor had come from.

Xena and Gabrielle dropped their gear as the barmaid entered to fill their tub. Buckets later the tub steamed with the promise of warmth. Xena could see the bard was anxious.

"Hop in. I’ll get us some food and drink," the warrior directed.

Gabrielle simply smiled as she began to disrobe. The door was open as the warrior started to leave.

"Oh Xena-?"

"Nutbread if they got it?" the warrior asked knowingly with a grin.

Gabrielle nodded enthusiastically, with a smile. The warrior did know the bard well.

"You got it."

When she finally returned with the warm food, she found Gabrielle soaking – hair wet, eyes closed. The bard looked quite comfortable.

The tub wasn’t large or very deep since the water only came up to the bards waist, exposing her nakedness. Xena took a moment to admire the view before placing the tray on the table with shaking hands. The noise forced Gabrielle’s eyes open.

"Nutbread?" she asked hopefully.

Xena picked up the loaf. "Your lucky day."

"Wonderful," she replied. "Now get in her before the water gets cold."

"I’m not sure we can both fit," the warrior observed.

Gabrielle grinned. "I’ll make room. Come on in."

Reluctantly, the warrior disrobed. If Xena didn’t know any better she would assume the bard was studying her. Little did she know, that was exactly what the bard was doing.

Since her introductions to the amazons, and her growing friendship with Ephiny, Gabrielle held Xena in a new light. Upon their last visit, Ephiny gave Gabrielle a crash course in Amazon love...Or more accurately, Amazon love making.

The queen and her regent asked Xena to take a group of young amazons to the practice field for a little education. Xena happily agreed leaving Gabby and Ephiny to discuss the ‘affairs of state’ in the royal hut. After two hours of ‘negotiations’ Gabrielle gained insights into her body she never dreamed possible.

She remembered how Ephiny had chuckled when she told the regent about her wedding night. She told Ephiny that the experience lasted a quarter of a candlemark. Ephiny ‘warned’ her she would need (and take) much longer in pleasuring her queen. Gabrielle could still see the playful smirk on the warrior’s face. She could feel the way her body ached for contact. She could also recall how grateful she was for Ephiny’s teachings.

Now, as Xena carefully maneuvered herself into the tub, Gabrielle felt the familiar ache and longed to show Xena how much she had learned.

"See," Gabrielle whispered, still unable to get her nerve up. "I told you there’s room."

Without asking, Gabrielle began to wet Xena’s hair before lathering the soap in. The massage to her long tresses made the warrior relax a bit. She reclined just a few fractions and could feel the bards hardened nipples teasing her back.

Aphrodite observed the scene with a great deal of interest. Both women were so close to fulfilling her victory – a deep passionate kiss within the next 48 candlemarks. She began to think of ways to taunt Ares with her win.

But much to her disappointment, the warrior quickly got out of the tub once her hair was rinsed, mumbling something about the food getting cold.

"You’ve got a bitchin’ amazon babe in your tub, naked, dripping wet. All you can think about is food?" Dite remarked to herself.

Suddenly, Cupid appeared. "What’s up here?" he asked observing the scene.

"Well, I was gonna ask ya to do some target practice, but you’re a little late, Cuppie. The mood is totally shot now," she vented.

"Who? Them? . . .Hades Mom, I’ve hit them with enough arrows they’ll be pinning for each other for all eternity. Nothing's worked. Give it up already, will ya?"

"I can’t! I made a bet with Ares! If they kiss and profess their love, he loses all rights to the bodacious warrior. If he wins, well, let’s just say Artemis isn’t gonna feel too awesome that I broke her queen's heart... and you know how she gets when she’s in a groedy mood."

Cupid considered the exchange. "So let’s get this clear. If you win queenie and do-gooder live happily ever after. If Ares wins he gets his Destroyer of Nations back?"

"You got it!"

Cupid thought about their predicament. "Why don’t you just tell them what’s on the line?"

"Because I’d be disqualified and I’d lose. Sure, I can put them in the tinniest inn room known to man and hope for some fireworks, but I can’t interfere directly with the mortals. Only 'Godly Folks' are allowed to know of this contest."

Cupid smiled. "So you can speak to those with godly powers about this little bet?"

Dite smacked her son on the forehead as an attention-getter.

"Helllllooo? Isn’t that what I’ve been saying?"

"Yeah," he continued to smile. "And I’ve got an idea that just might work." In a flash, he was gone.

Chapter 2

"Two to the right!" the man yelled.

"I see ‘em. I see ‘em!" Both clubs were stopped in mid-swing before coming back to smack their owners unconscious.

The gang of cut throats, who terrorized the village moments before, now all lay scattered about the ground. A bright light took the attention away from the surveying of the damage. Suddenly, the God of Love appeared.

"Uncle Herc!" he exclaimed.

"Hey Cupid! How’s your mom doing?"

Hercules and Iolaus walked over to greet the winged god. "She’s good, but she could use your help. We’ve got less than a day to get to Markerus."

"What’s wrong?" Herc asked concerned.

Cupid looked at Herc’s traveling companion. "Could I speak to Uncle Herc alone? Nothing against you, Iolaus. It’s just Gods stuff - I’m sure you understand."

"Say no more. I’m going to the tavern." Iolaus smiled.

Once he was out of hearing range, Herc asked again. "Why the secrecy? What’s going on?"

"It’s Xena," Cupid whispered. The God watched his uncle’s eyes widen.

"What happened?"

"Nothing... yet," Cupid replied. "And that’s part of the problem... We need a course of action."

"Perhaps now would be a good time to start explaining," Herc offered.

Cupid grinned as he told the demi-god of their predicament. As he finished he asked. "Will you help?"

The long-haired man smiled and said, "Lead the way."

Chapter 3

Xena and Gabrielle were having breakfast when Xena noticed Gabrielle drop her toast.

"What’s wrong?" Xena asked concerned.

"Look who’s here," she answered pointed as she smiled. Xena now smiled when she caught the view of the familiar faces. She rose as the two men walked over.

"What are two guys like you doing in a place like this?" she asked hugging both of them.

Gabrielle offered her greetings and vice versa.

"Well," Hercules began, taking a seat. "I’m here to deliver a message."

"From who?" Xena asked.

Hercules hesitated. "I can’t say."

"Okay. Who does it involve?"

"I can’t say that either."

Xena was visibly frustrated. "Well, what’s it concerning?"

When Herc hesitated again, Xena interrupted his mumbling. "Let me guess? You can’t say?"

Herc simply smiled and shrugged in agreement.

"Thanks for the message," Xena replied dryly. She started to rise, but he took her by the arm leading her to the seat again.

"Okay. Okay," he said quickly. "I can tell you this-."

Before he had a chance to speak someone, a man, screamed in anger. When Xena’s table looked to follow the noise, a chair crashed directly into Herc’s face, shattering apart. The inn was soon a mess with mugs, plates, furniture and even bodies tossed around the room.

"Is he okay?" Gabrielle asked looking over Herc’s limp body yet keeping one eye on the room.

After a quick examination, Xena motioned the duo to help her move him. "He’s breathing, but he’s been knocked out cold."

They carried him toward the kitchen. As they moved, Herc opened his eyes once. "Strife... Love," he whispered to Xena. When they placed him on a table away from the commotion, she lightly patted his cheeks hoping he would come back again.

"What does that mean?" Xena asked Iolaus.

"I don’t know," Iolaus answered honestly. "I don’t understand why he said Strife, or the part about love."

"Well, what message did he have to deliver to me?" she asked growing irritated. She wasn’t angry with Iolaus directly, just the situation of being in the dark regarding the statement.

"He didn’t say. All I know is Cupid showed up. Talked to Herc and the next thing I know, we’re on our way here to Markerus."

The warrior thought for a moment. What could be so important about her that Cupid would visit Hercules? Why did he mention Strife? As the warrior thought it did seem pretty odd that the fight broke out just as Hercules was about to give her the information. It definitely looked like Strife’s handy work, but what would he care about Cupid’s message? Unless...

"Ares is behind this," she whispered.

Gabrielle always felt a chill at the mention of that God’s name. This time was no different.

"How do you know?" Iolaus asked.

"Let’s just call it intuition." Xena grinned.

"She can feel when he’s near," Gabrielle explained casually.

"Why would Ares care about Cupid’s chat with Hercules?" Iolaus asked.

Xena continued studying the demi-god. "I’m not sure," Xena asked concerned. "And I have a feeling I’m not going to understand until he wakes up."

Gabrielle could see the confusion, perhaps even fear, in Xena’s face. She could tell - whatever they were going to face was not going to be pleasant.

Chapter 4

"She should be disqualified!" Ares raged to his father.

"Gods can talk to Gods," Dite argued.

"But he’s half mortal," Ares replied, getting up into her face.

"Perhaps, but he’s half-god too. Let’s not forget that... Besides who sent Strife in to start that little ruckus? Hum?... That was Godly interference. I think you should he disqualified."

"Look! If you’re gonna send muscle-boy-!"

"Stop it!" Zeus yelled, drawing the words out for emphasis. "You two are driving me nuts!" Everyone waited quietly until he regained his composure. "Okay," he finally replied. "Aphrodite was with in her rights to tell Hercules." Ares started to pout and Zeus raised a hand to silence any protest. "And Ares also kept his half of the agreement since Strife, although he may be a weasel, is still considered a god. He said nothing to no full mortal regarding your contest... I would suggest that you both stop whining and start planning. You have twenty-four mortal candlemarks until a winner is declared. That’s my decision. Now deal with it."

With a few disgusted glares, both god and goddess vanished, leaving Zeus on his throne shaking his head in disbelieve and disappointment.

Chapter 5

"Any change?" Xena asked, peeking into the room.

"Bits of consciousness from time to time, but nothing concrete," the blonde man replied.

"Why don’t you get some rest?" Xena offered. "Gabrielle and I will keep watch."

"Are you sure?" Iolaus asked.

"Of course," Xena smiled. "Besides you could use a meal, a bath and a bed. Relax and we’ll get you if there’s any change."

Iolaus smiled and stroked Xena’s arm in thanks. After he left, Gabrielle walked up behind Xena. "What do you think Ares wants?" she whispered.

"What does he always want?" Xena asked, already knowing Gabrielle had the answer.

"He’s not going to get it, is he?" she asked. The voice was raked with fear and pain.

"Not if I can help it." Xena smirked. She did her best to convey confidence, but even she wondered if she would be able to resist Ares yet again.

Gabrielle could sense it. "It would kill me if you went back to him. Do you know that?"

Xena wasn’t sure what possessed her, but she found the back of her fingertips caressing Gabrielle’s cheek. "It would kill me to leave you," she whispered. "He’d never get me back without a fight."

Xena was so close to pulling the bard into her arms, kissing her with a deep passion she knew was inside her, yet refused to surface. She swallowed deep and decided that she would indeed, kiss the bard. Gabrielle’s tears however drove any erotic thoughts from her mind.

"Promise me he won’t get you back. Even if it does happen someday. Just promise me now," the bard sobbed.

Xena embraced Gabrielle like she had so many times before. Gabrielle, her best friend. Nothing more. Nothing less. Finally, after they clung together for many minutes, Gabrielle pulled back.

"I promise," Xena whispered, kissing the bards' forehead. "I promise." She wiped the remaining tears away before hearing the bed creak.

"Xena?" Hercules whispered.

In a flash she darted over, taking his hand. "I’m here," she whispered.

"Follow your heart," he whispered. "Do what you never dreamed possible... Fast."

The demi-god fell back against the bed, drifting into dreamstate again. ‘Was that it?’ Xena wondered. ‘Was that the message?... What I never dreamed possible?’ Her silent questioning was interrupted by Gabrielle’s voice.

"What does that mean?" she asked.

The warrior shook her head, resting Hercules hand back on the bed. "I don’t know... Perhaps it’s time I made a little offering to the Gods to find out just what is going on."

"Xena," the bard said shaken, grabbing the warrior by the arm. "You’re not going to see-?"

"No," Xena interrupted. "I’m going to see Aphrodite. Hercules mentioned love so I'm going to the head honcho. And I want answers."

Chapter 6

"How’d it go?" Dite asked optimistically.

"Same ‘ole. Same ‘ole," Cupid replied.

"Hades! All that mushy stuff ‘bout about Ares, the tears, etc. and you mean they STILL didn’t do the deed?"

"Yeah mom," Cupid answered. "But she came real close this time. I mean it’s like she has no..."

Dite knew what the next words out of Cupid’s mouth were going to be and the bigger his grin got the more she shook herself in protest. "No! Absolutely not!"

"Come on!" Cupid prodded. "I’m sure she doesn’t hold a grudge over the incident at Poseidon’s birthday party... What’s the harm in asking her for a favor?"

"I don’t want to be indebted to that scaggy chick who calls herself a goddess!" she argued.

"Look mom," Cupid countered. "We don’t have a lot of time left. The daring duo are headed to one of your temples now. It couldn’t be more perfect if we had planned it... What do you say?"

Dite considered Cupid’s propositions and the fact she had to bring in ‘reinforcements’. "Do you even know where she is?"

"I could find her," he replied confidently.

Dite couldn’t voice the words. She simply waved her hands, giving her unspoken approval. With a grin, the winged god took flight.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

"Are they there?" Ares asked.

"They are," came the sly reply.

"Good," he smiled. "Now you know what to do?"

"I have everything at my disposal correct?" the goddess asked for conformation.

"Absolutely," he grinned.

"Good," she replied. "Consider it done. By evening fall the warrior will be yours again."

Ares poured himself a drink as she left. But it was victory he could taste.

Chapter 7

After letting Iolaus sleep for two hours, the duo took to the road. It took Xena and Gabrielle three hours to arrive at the nearest Temple of Aphrodite.

Casually, Xena threw the slaughtered animal on the altar. "Okay," she replied. "Here’s your gift. I want answers."

"Xena," Gabrielle giggled. "You need to be a little more polite."

The innocent comment made the warrior’s hair stand on edge. She could feel her blood bubbling below the surface. A look of deep anger flashed across the warrior’s face as she turned to meet the bard. Xena couldn’t explain it, but she was mad. Mad as Hades. And neither woman could see nor hear Discord in the corner laughing.

"Oh really?" Xena replied snidely. "What makes you the be-all, end-all of proper godly etiquette? Huh? Tell me you little amazon wanna-be."

Gabrielle face grew almost as red as her hair. "What did you say to me?" she asked with just as much anger. "Amazon wanna-be?"

"You heard me right? You don’t have the first clue as to what it means to be an amazon."

"I know a lot more than you think," Gabrielle countered.

"Oh yeah?! Like what?! Swinging you’re wittle staff to and frow," Xena answered in a child-like voice. Xena laughed at her own comments. "I’ll bet you’ve never even kissed a girl before," she added in a menacing taunt.

"I guess you don’t know me as well as you think you do," Gabrielle spouted back.

That made Xena stop and think for a moment. "Get Real! Who did YOU ever KISS?"

"That’s none of your business," Gabrielle replied defensively.

"HA! Just as I thought. No one," Xena turned her back, started to stroll away.

"For your information, it was Ephiny," the bard spat out in defiance. "And we did a lot more than kiss...Trust me Xena. I know what it means to be amazon... in every way... every shape... and every form."

Xena stopped and turned. She knew the bard wasn’t lying. But instead of the pain she thought she would feel, all she had at this moment was rage. 

"Ephiny!" Xena shouted. "You slept with Ephiny!"

"No, Xena," the bard replied with a sly grin. "There was no sleeping going on whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I’d never been so wide awake in my life."

"You bitch," Xena growled moving closer and closer with each breath. "You slut!"

Xena was on the verge of back-handing the bard when Aphrodite appeared between them. "Essqueeze me!" she replied, putting a hand on each woman’s shoulder. "This is not cool! This is totally not cool! Why on Olympus are you two-?"

Before she could finish, she had her answer. Discord sat in the shadows waving before vanishing.

Gabrielle started to storm out of the temple.

"Where are you going?" Dite asked concerned.

"What’s it look like, your worship? I’m leaving," she said huffing away.

Dite turned to Xena. "You can’t let her do that. You can’t let her leave!"

"What in Tarturus do I want with an Amazon whore?!" Xena raged, loud enough so Gabrielle could hear.

"This IS totally uncool," Dite said wiping her brow.

As Xena watched the goddess, she could feel her anger lighten. She couldn’t explain why she said the things she did. And Gabrielle. By the Gods, she was ready to strike Gabrielle – the woman she loved more than life and the joys life held. Xena could feel herself panic and she willed herself to breathe deep and long, regaining her mind control. When she finally did pull her body and mind together again, she had only one realization – finding Gabrielle.

Dite followed Xena as she darted from the temple. Xena looked left and then right. There was nothing, not even Argo. ‘By Gods, she’s on Argo’ the warrior surmised. ‘She must really be pissed to want to get outta here that fast.’ Xena realized there was nothing she could do at the moment. Nothing except ask some questions of the Goddess of Love. Although she was free of Discord’s power now, she could feel her anger growing again.

"Come on Blondie," she said grabbing Aphrodite by the arm. "We’ve got a lot of chatting to do."

Chapter 8

Cupid watched a couple by the river. The young man was so much in love. He was pouring his heart out to a young maiden. He begged with no success until finally he stopped speaking. A moment later the young maiden leaped into his arms, the look of ardent desire plastered across her face.

"Nice shooting, Cous'," Cupid complimented.

The Goddess dropped her crossbow gentle and took the young God into her arms for a big hug. 

"Ohhh, I’m so glad to see you, Cupid. It’s been too long. What are you up to these days?"

"Oh a little of this; a little of that. I’d like to say this trip is just for pleasure, but truth is I could really use your help, Passion."

"Is that so?" the goddess answered. "You need my help? Or does your mother need my help?" she asked uncertain.

"Well, both of us actually," he confessed in a low tone. "but I’m sure once you hear the story, you’ll be eager to help." He ended on a much more confident note.

Casually, she slung the weapon over her shoulder. "Okay, since you’re my favorite cousin and all, I guess I could hear you out. All I ask is that you make this snappy. I’m a very, very busy woman." She grinned.

Chapter 9

"There they are," Cupid pointed.

"They don’t look too much in love," Passion observed.

Gabrielle kept trying to lead Argo away, but Xena refused. She repeatedly grabbed the bard’s arm making her stop. The harsh words the amazon queen used to berate the warrior went seemingly unnoticed. The warrior was relentless in trying to make the young woman stop. Cupid could tell the warrior was exhausted from the run back into town, but that didn’t slow her down as she tried her best to coax the bard.

"What happened?" Cupid asked himself.

"Looks like your love potion didn’t take too well," Passion teased.

"Well, just hit’em both and see what happens," Cupid said motioning to her crossbow.

"ARE YOU NUTS?!"

"What’s the problem?" he asked innocently. "We don’t have a lot of time left," he answered looking at his watch. "Only a candlemark," he whispered.

Passion considered all the angles from their location and she shook her head. "It’s too risky here. Too many people. Besides with your little red-head that steamed, it could have disastrous results."

"Like what?" he asked.

"Well, having that much passion for one that you despise can cause mortals to become suicidal. She may kill herself before she gives into her passion and before you know it she’s playing with an asp like the former Queen of the Nile."

Cupid tried to construct a battle plan. Being the God of Love, it wasn’t his strong suit, but he realized he had to end their feud and get them both in a private place... alone.

"Okay. Okay. I think I’ve got an idea. There’s a temple on the other side of town. Meet me there in a quarter candlemark. Alright?" The winged god didn’t wait for an answer. He needed someone much wiser than him to help him in his task.

The bard and the warrior however, continued to argue.

"I’m sorry," Xena replied. "You’re right. It was none of my business to ask about your love life."

"I have no love life," the bard spat back. "There isn’t a decent man we come in contact with. It’s always warlords and hoodlums. What I do have is an occasional sex life... And Hades, that was only once."

"Only once?" the warrior asked for clarification. Maybe she and Ephiny weren’t really an item. That was positive.

"Yes! Now will you drop it?!"

Xena didn’t say anything and continued to walk next to the bard.

"Why only once?" she quietly asked.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes in frustration. "I thought we agreed-."

"I gotta know," the warrior prodded gently. "Did she want more than you could give?"

"Xena," the bard replied taking a deep breath. "Ephiny is my best friend, next to you of course... It was just something we both needed."

"What do you mean?" Xena replied with another question and she got the rolling eye look again from Gabrielle.

"I needed to know what it meant to be an amazon - on every level. She needed physical release... She hadn’t been with anyone since Phantes... She trusted me and I trusted her. And that’s all that mattered."

Xena let Gabrielle walk a few paces ahead before catching up. When she got to Gabrielle’s side, a glittering shower of gold appeared before them. Both women covered their eyes as much as possible without looking away. When the sparks subsided they looked around at the villagers and the apparition before them. No one seemed to notice the white cloaked woman except them.

"You are on a quest for answers, I hear," the goddess spoke with a knowing grin. "To do what you never dreamed possible."

"By the Gods, it’s Athena," Gabrielle whispered.

Athena simply nodded to the bard before turning her gaze to the warrior. "If you seek wisdom you will go to my temple without delay. Put these petty differences aside for a moment, for the truth lies buried within each of your hearts. The knowledge is engraved in your soul."

"And you say I’m cryptic," Xena whispered to the bard. The bard smiled and Xena felt ten times lighter in the glow. ‘Gabrielle smile is as warm as a cloudless summer day’ the warrior thought.

"I heard that," Athena added as she began to disappear with a grin of her own. "I’m not cryptic, but you are right about Artemis’ queen’s smile."

Xena looked dumbfounded for a moment. ‘How did she know-?’ Xena thought out of reaction, until it hit her. ‘Oh yeah she’s the goddess of truth and wisdom. No wonder she could hear my thoughts.’

Chapter 10

Xena and Gabrielle crept slowing into the temple unsure of what to expect. It was vacant. Not even a priest or priestess around. The warrior could feel like they were being watched. "Stay close," Xena whispered. The warrior may have been the one with extreme senses in hearing and seeing, but Gabrielle too could feel something amiss.

"Get back!" Xena exclaimed, pushing Gabrielle to a corner.

Passion cursed she had a perfect shot lined up on the bard until the stupid warrior pushed her away. Her mouth dropped when she saw the God of War materialize just inches away from the warriors sword.

"Hello, Xena." He smiled.

"Okay," she replied sheathing her sword. "What’s going on?"

"Oh, I’m not allowed to discuss what’s brought you here. But it is within my Godly rights to offer you a gift."

"You have nothing I want," Xena replied, turning away and leading Gabrielle away by her arm.

"Don’t be so sure Xena," he said slyly. "What if I told you I’ve got the power to get you any army you chose. Living. Dead. Cutthroats. Do-Gooders. Anyone you want from the past or the present. What would you say?"

"I’d say I’m not interested, Ares," Xena answered.

"You go girl," Dite yelled from the back of the temple. Ares shook his head as he rolled his eyes. "I thought if you were going to play, well, I could play too," the goddess answered.

Dite glanced up and saw Passion in position. The lust goddess motion to toward the bard and Dite picked up on it, heading over to Xena’s companion.

"I want you to look at her Gabrielle," Dite replied casually, shifting the bard, so she faced Xena. "I want you to tell me what you see." The instant Dite moved giving access, Passion pulled the trigger.

Gabrielle was about to speak, but the sharp pain in her back that traveled up to her head stopped her. She shook her head to clear her mind and when she looked up all she could see was the bluest blue she would ever witness in her lifetime.

Ares saw the direction the shot was fired, but he found nothing.

"That little son of yours has gotten quicker," Ares complimented. Dite smiled. Ares was clueless as to what he was really up against. She listened as he smugly continued, "but it won’t do any good. It hasn’t worked at all in over two years. What makes you think it will work now?"

Xena couldn’t turn away from Gabrielle. The way the young woman was studying her was hypnotic. Xena could see the bard’s chest rising and falling – her breathing becoming labored. Xena took the bard by both upper arms and gave a mild shake. 

"Talk to me Gabrielle. Are you alright? You look a little flushed. Maybe you should sit down."

"Oh Gods, your touch," Gabrielle whispered. She looked like she was going to faint at any moment. Xena pulled her arms away thinking she had injured the young woman.

Ares continued to smile, pointing at his watch. The sand was coming down to the last trickles of grains. His smile disappeared however as Passion gave a salute from over Xena’s shoulder after she released her arrow.

As Xena’s body jerked, Ares eyes widened. Xena now recognized the look on Gabrielle’s face -- it wasn't a look of pain but rather desire. The emerald of her eyes, the strawberry blonde of her hair. Xena had to have this woman once and for all. Gabrielle heard the warrior’s sigh and prepared herself for impact. Their lips met forcefully, followed almost immediately by their exploring tongues. Neither woman could breath; totally consumed by their want.

Ares screamed at the display as the last grain slipped through the hour glass. "Noooooo!"

"Yessss!" Dite countered in victory; her fists held high, teeth clenched in joy.

Ares vanished looking quite disgraced. Passion simply nodded to Aphrodite, holding up her hand. 

"Don’t say it," she whispered. "Just remember you owe ME one now." She winked to the goddess, who smiled in agreement. Casually, she strolled over to Xena and Gabrielle who were still feeling the height of the arrows effects.

"Well, now I can tell you everything Xena," the Goddess of Love offered. She waited a moment, but the pair refused to stop their lip locking, well, except to reposition themselves, striving for greater pleasure. "I really don’t think you care," she answered. "Should I leave?" She still didn’t get an answer. Things had now progressed past kissing. The bard was ‘fighting’ with the warrior’s armor as Xena began her oral assault on the bards neck with such fervor it made the Goddess of Love blush.

"Ouch," the goddess teased her deaf audience. "That’s gonna leave a mark." Aphrodite looked around the room some more in hesitation. Finally, Xena pulled away from Gabrielle to look at Aphrodite.

"Don’t you have some place else you have to be?" she asked in a hostile tone.

"No." The goddess smiled.

Xena released the bard. Of course, Gabrielle followed and when Xena stopped to face Aphrodite, Gabrielle continued to kiss and lick Xena’s shoulders. "Find someplace," the warrior ordered. "I’m real busy now."

"So I see," she whispered. She began to walk backward toward the temple doors as she added. "If you need anything again, just give me some nice flowers for an offering. I’m not into dead things ‘k?"

With the Goddess gone, Xena turned to Gabrielle -- a totally naked Gabrielle. Xena grinned and twitched her eyebrow mischievously. "You’re not getting’ any sleep tonight my bard," she warned. With ease she lifted the bard over her shoulder, carrying her to the altar. "And I’ll give you a thousand more stories to tell."

Athena and her priest grinned outside as they heard the bard’s cries of pleasure.

Epilog

After a day of making love, the two women finally feel asleep. Xena had constructed a make-shift bed out of the curtains that lined the temple walls. They were awaken by the afternoon sun and a smiling Iolaus and Hercules standing over them. Although the passion had died considerable, the two women still couldn’t keep their hands off each other. As the four sat at dinner, Herc and Iolaus couldn’t contain their grins at the displays of affection.

And as years rolled by they did Cupid proud and he visited them often. Xena, who never had a God she called her own, did look forward to his arrivals. She even went so far as to thank the God on several occasions. She never saw Ares again or felt his presence. She never felt the need to ask about him either. She did, however, asked Cupid’s advice on her relationship with Gabrielle.

The bard was growing more and more withdrawn around their tenth anniversary and Xena wasn’t sure what to make of it. At least, not until they heard of an impending attack on a town by a vicious warlord. The duo arrived too late and the town was burned down. Everyone was killed. Or so it seemed at first glance. In a cluster of trees, not far from some charged homes, the cry’s of an infant could be heard. Upon closer inspection they realized it was actually two young voices.

Gabrielle smiled as she picked up the babies. It was the first smile Xena had seen in weeks. She finally realized what it was that made the bard’s heartache. 

"Alright," the warrior answered before the bard could ask. "I’ll agree to steam carrots, feed them milk and even wash their linens...but... I absolutely refuse dipper duty."

"Do you mean it?" Gabrielle said hopefully.

"Well, not exactly. I mean if I really had to change a dipper I suppose I could do it," the warrior teased with a grin.

Xena escorted Gabrielle back to the Amazon village with their ‘daughters’, taking a day to rest. Soon, she was on the road alone with a regiment of the royal guard. In two weeks time, they had found the warlord and defeated him. She remembered smiling at the campfire light that evening.

"Happy we defeated that scum, huh?" Solari had asked.

"No," Xena replied. "I’m happy because I’m going home tomorrow to my family."

Solari returned the grin Xena had on her face. "I know what you mean. I miss Ephiny."

When she returned late in the evening Gabrielle was awake in their hut feeding their ‘youngest’. Of course they didn’t know if Lila was younger, but she was smaller than Cyrene so that’s what they told everyone.

As they grew, however, Lila overshadowed Cyrene. Later, she even overshadowed Xena. Gabrielle always got a kick out of how Xena would reprimand the reckless teenage, having to look up while she shook her finger. Lila was a lot like her mother, Xena. But Cyrene was just like her mom, Gabrielle.

Cyrene loved books and telling stories. She made it her personal mission to see that every amazon in the village knew how to read. And she’d be damned that that wasn’t what happened in less than two years. It didn’t matter what age the amazon was. It was a requirement that they were literate. She was stubborn about the issue and Xena always teased ‘her bard’ about the battle of wills they often had regarding countless issue in life.

As they grew into adults Lila settled down with a nice girl from the village, who just happened to be one of the best archers in the royal guard. Cyrene left for the Academy and fell in love, marrying a poet. A year later Xena was shocked when she found out she was going to be a grandmother. And surprisingly she took the news much better than Gabrielle, who suddenly felt ‘old’.

Xena never lived to see the birth of her ‘great granddaughter’. And it was nine months after that baby’s birth that the amazons ‘committed their queen’s body to the flames’. Uncertainty hung on Gabrielle’s mind as she walked through the Elysian Fields, but after a few moments she could see two figures approach – Perdicus and Xena.

As they met Perdicus kissed Gabrielle on the hand. And offered it to Xena. "This belongs to you," he said with a bow to the warrior. Gabrielle never felt so joyful in her mortal life as she did at that moment. There was a peace and understanding in this place but most importantly, there was her warrior who would be by her side for all eternity.

The End

 

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